Putting in the time and effort to network and grow relationships is a vital part of getting ahead in any career. It’s about building lasting, win-win relationships, devoid of transactional, one-way thinking, where at times you’ll give more than you take.
In the same way as you prepare for a client meeting, a pitch or a presentation, networking is not something you should approach cold – you’ll need to be prepared, research your audience and be clear on your goal.
Don’t turn up to an event without a “game plan”. Be clear on who you want to meet, what you have to offer them and what you can gain from networking with them.
The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own. – Bob Burg, author of The Go-Giver
If you’re an introvert and find networking unnatural and difficult, challenge yourself on what you have to gain from meeting others. There’s value in every conversation, and the fun is discovering what that value is.
If you decide to go to an event, don’t hide out in the corner, stand in the middle of the room where you can potentially meet someone new at every turn.
Always remember, you can’t do everything in one conversation.
The goal of attending a networking event should be to make new connections, exchange contacts and agree to follow-up … a call, a coffee or a meeting.
Follow Templar’s 6 golden rules for successful networking:
Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities. – Michele Jennae, executive career coach
Be interested in who you’re talking with
Your aim is to build relationships by discovering some common ground and the easiest way to do this is by asking big, open-ended questions.
Asking questions gets people talking – people love to talk about themselves. Don’t say too much, simply ask questions then pause. Use the silence to allow the other person to answer.
For those of us who find it difficult to open up in social circles and meet new people, asking questions successfully deflects the attention away from you. That makes your job simple. Just keep asking probing questions, listen intently and hopefully pick up pieces of useful information.
Don’t get stuck
Where you position yourself in a room is key. The middle of the room is often the golden spot and should allow you to meet the maximum number of people. Everywhere you turn, you’ll be likely to strike up a new conversation.
Avoid the corners of the room and standing against the wall, otherwise if you get locked in an unhelpful conversation and want to extract yourself you’ve limited your routes of escape.
Exchanging contact details, whether by swapping business cards or simply phone numbers, should be one of your key goals. Make sure you always have a pocket of cards and a pen.
If you can, in a quiet moment soon after meeting someone, jot down something memorable about that person that will jog your memory when it comes to following up.
The ideal period to follow up with someone you’ve met is within 24 hours of meeting them, preferably less. When you meet them, make sure you exchange contacts and agree on the next steps.
Send an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, an email or pick up the phone and refer to where and when you met and that you agreed you’d make contact.
Repeat their name
In the book, Power Networking: 59 Secrets for Personal & Professional Success, authors Donna Fisher and Sandy Vilas explain: “Every time you repeat someone’s name, either to yourself, in conversation with them, or by introducing them to someone else by name, you are reinforcing their name and aiding the process of committing it to memory.”
Fisher and Villas go on to explain that memory recall is “essential to a networker because you must be able to remember people in order to respond to them”.
Listen more than you talk
Listening is a vital skill when networking and key to building a rapport. Ask questions and listen. Search for the common ground, mutual friends and acquaintances, similar interests and backgrounds, or aligned business goals.
Demonstrate good listening with focused eye contact and non-verbal cues like nodding and smiling. Show the other that you are truly interested in them and what they have to say.